In a stunning move, we have arguably the first trade in MMA history, and I’ll write all about this shocker in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Demetrious Johnson Traded By UFC To ONE Championship For Ben Askren
In a blockbuster move that came out of nowhere, the UFC is on the verge of trading former flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson to ONE Championship for welterweight stud Ben Askren. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani first reported the news. According to Helwani, technically both men will be released from their respective deals with the UFC and ONE to sign new contracts with the rival promotions. It’s arguably one of the most stunning transactions in the history of MMA as two of the best fighters in the world will switch organizations in one huge move.
On paper, this appears to be a win-win move for both the UFC and for ONE. In the UFC’s case, the promotion had clearly soured on Johnson (27-3-1). As good of a mixed martial artist as he is, he never quite caught on with fight fans and his pay-per-views always always tanked at the box office. The UFC was hoping Johnson would turn into a huge star but he never quite did. That being said, Johnson had a brilliant 15-2-1 record in the UFC, and he held the flyweight title from 2012-2018, winning a four-man tournament to initially win the vacant belt over Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 and going on to defend it 11 times. His only loss since 2011 came this past August when he lost a split decision to Henry Cejudo to drop the belt. Johnson is a tremendous get for ONE and will fit in better fighting in Asia where smaller fighters are generally more appreciated by fight fans. Not only will Johnson be able to fight at 125lbs for ONE, but he could also move up to 135lbs there to fight Bibiano Fernandes in a superfight. Plus, his long-time trainer Matt Hume is a part of ONE’s management team, so this move makes a lot of sense.
As for the UFC, its president Dana White has said for years that Askren wouldn’t be part of the roster but apparently he has finally caved, and it’s good news for fight fans as Askren is a tremendous talent who is also great on the mic. He could be a potential star for the UFC. Askren has an undefeated 18-0, 1 NC record in the sport and was both the ONE Championship welterweight champion and the former Bellator welterweight champion. He is a tremendous wrestler and with his ability to hype up a fight he could become a PPV star for the UFC if he keeps winning. Imagine the kind of promotion a fight between Askren and Colby Covington could have, for instance.
This is all still a lot of process, and it’s not official yet, but it’s a crazy move that is sure to change the way the game of MMA is played. We have never seen a true trade in this sport before and this could lead to future trades between the UFC and other promotions. It also means the flyweight division may be dissolved. Rumor has it that Cejudo will move up to bantamweight to fight TJ Dillashaw, and that makes the future of the UFC flyweight division very unclear. With DJ gone, it’s very likely the UFC will end up folding the division altogether, with other fighters’ contracts potentially sold off to ONE and RIZIN. This is a true game changer in the sport and it will be interesting to see what ramifciations this trade will have down the road, but for now this is a historical time in the sport.